Pearl Primer

A stylish array of colors, shapes, sizes, and price tags make cultured pearls the perfect way to accessorize just about any outfit. Stunning strands of pearls are created with a little human help, by placing a bead into an oyster or mussel. After the shell closes, the mollusk slowly covers the bead in nacre, the crystalline substance responsible for a pearl’s iridescence, to protect itself. The value of a particular type of pearl is determined by such factors as luster, nacre, size, lack of surface flaw, and symmetry.


  South Sea Pearls Black Tahitian Pearls Akoya Freshwater Pearls Keshi or Poppy Seed Pearls
Origin: Saltwater oysters from Northern Australia and Southeast Asia Black-lipped oysters from the warm waters of the South Seas. Saltwater oysters from China and Japan Freshwater mussels primarily from China Salt or fresh water
Size: 9 mm to 18 mm 8 mm to 15 mm 3 mm to 10 mm 2 mm to 16 mm Extremely small and not fully formed
Colors: Silver, gold, and white Dark hues of black, grey, silver, green, blue, and purple White or cream with rose, cream, or ivory overtones Pale shades of white, black, pink, peach, lavender, plum, purple, and tangerine Various; can be dyed
Shapes: Round, near round and button All Round, semi-round, baroque, drop Oval, button, and baroque—but rarely round or semi-round Various
Cost: $10,000 to $30,000 $8,000 to $25,000 $800 to $5,000 $100 to $500 $25 to $200
Pearl of Wisdom: The most expensive pearl on the market due to its rarity and luster. The only type of pearl to achieve its black color naturally Used in the classic white pearl necklace, these typically have the greatest shine and highest luster of all cultured pearls Not as lustrous as other types, they offer the widest range of options for pearl buyers in terms of size, shape, and color Typically used in commercial and fashion jewelry, they are formed when the oyster rejects and spits out the implanted nucleus material before culturing is complete.

*Prices noted are for a 16- to 18-inch necklace

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South Sea, Black Tahitian, and Akoya pearl images by Winterson Pearls. Visit Winterson Pearls’ website here.

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